Self-driving vehicles have long been an interesting topic of discussions for many tech-savvy company owners. After all, the technology carries a tonne of potential for all kinds of transport-reliant businesses. Then there’s the bragging right, too. Imagine how cool would it be to add some kind of robotic truck to your fleet? Well, apparently, Otto, a company that transport giant Uber brought last summer for roughly $680 million is done imagining things. They’re now making it happen.
A few weeks back, an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer made a 120-mile journey from an Anheuser-Busch facility in Fort Collins, Colorado, down Interstate 25 to the town of Colorado Springs. The truck carried 2,000 cases, or 50,000 cans, of Budweiser beer–an ordinary delivery for a semi-trailer, but a remarkable one considering that nobody’s manning the wheel.
It’s no secret that Tesla’s been doing something almost similar at their backyard. However, the Otto-powered truck’s technology has been more precisely designed for the highway, where variables such as jaywalking pedestrians, four-way stops, or kids on bicycles won’t likely play a factor. It also works well for the truck since in can maintain a safe following distance and won’t have to change lanes unless absolutely necessary.
“The technology is ready to start doing these commercial pilots,” says Otto co-founder Lior Ron. “Over the next couple of years, we’ll continue to develop the tech, so it’s actually ready to encounter every condition on the road.”
While the delivery was partially a stunt for Uber and Anheuser-Busch, the delivery suggests that a future with self-driving trucks is just around the corner. Furthermore, Uber has vowed to put Otto’s vehicles on the road by 2017. Thus, positioning another multi-billion dollar industry to the main draw and unlocking huge profits for investors. “You can imagine a future where those trucks are essentially a virtual train on a software rail, on the highway,” the amiable co-founder added.